Rainbows & Unicorns

It’s tough to watch the news in June of 2022. So we spent the day off-grid going to Rainbow Springs State Park with Grandma and floating in a tube. Twice.

We actually went to the springs in 2021 after reading about it and we had a blast. Coming out of the pandemic was super rough all around. Even though the theme parks were all open, the thought of going and having to wear a mask in the Florida summer heat was less than appealing. We are not really theme park people – but we are super State Park people. And Rainbow Springs State Park hit all the marks.

Last year when we went tubing we learned a lot. A. LOT. You would think that floating in a tube down a river would just involve laying in a tube. Well yes, and no. Here are some highlights and tubing tips from our adventures.

Bring Your Own Tube

If you can, go buy your own tube. Some parks make you use their tube, but many times you can use your own. Some tubing parks will have restrictions on the size of the tube, but a single tube is usually good to go. My suggestion is to get a tube with a bottom mesh screen and a backrest. The inner tubes that they give you are fine, but if you are a person of a certain age, or have some mobility issues, trust me on this. My biggest complaint about the first time we went tubing came from my back and neck.

Our new tube with bottom and back rest. Much more comfortable than a regular tube.
Matilda models the new tube.

ROPE!

This was really the biggest problem we had the first time we went was staying together. The first person in the water was down river by the time all of us had a chance to get in. We would paddle to get together, but there was no way to stay together without needing to use your hands to hold on to the rest of your group.

The kids used the rental tubes from the park, and even found two that were already tied together. The park guide called them the “get along tubes”. At least they have a sense of humor. But for real, tie together!

We also found that rope was useful to tie our water bottles and shoes to the raft without always having to hold them. We used a few carabiners to hang things off of our tubes quickly as well.

The Get-Along tubes!
All tied up and hands free!

Go Swimming and Bring Goggles

Yes, it’s cold by Florida standards. 72 degrees year round. It was a hot day, so it was pretty refreshing. I did wear a long sleeve rash guard top and that helped. Matilda wore a shirt over her suit, but dropped it after a bit. In the direct sun, the water was perfect after the first splash.

The clarity in the water is amazing. It has visibility of up to 200 feet. You can see everything. It feels great. It will take a bit of maneuvering to get back into the tube, so consider that. I had to move to the shallows to help get back into my tube, but the kids slipped in and out like otters. In fact, Lane probably swam more than he floated. He was our personal nature guide noting ever time we floated over a fish or turtle. Which brings me to my next point…

Matilda and Lane swimming

Be Aware of Wildlife

Gator. Gators – plural. Check.

Otters. Check.

This is not a Disney ride. There are lots of living things. Mean, living things in some cases. but like most everything in life – you don’t bother it, it doesn’t bother you. That being said, of course, I do realize that I am simultaneously surrounded by and slowly becoming Florida Man by shrugging off the fact that we saw two gators and some otters and just kept swimming, relatively unfazed.

Otter.

Enjoy.

This is our new go-to family fun time. It is so nice to be off-grid and out in nature. While it a physical activity, it is not super strenuous. My mom is a very active 73 year old, and she had a blast. In fact, we floated the distance at the state park, which took about 90 minutes, went back to the car and ate a quick picnic lunch, and then got back on the tram and put in to float again. The second time was even better because we took no cameras, no nothing. It was so much more relaxing than trying to document the adventure the first time. Hopefully later this summer we can try another tubing adventure.

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